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The Memorial to Caroline Scott Harrison

by R.J. McGinnis

The marriage of Caroline Scott, daughter of the first president of Oxford College for Women, and Benjamin Harrison, then a student at Miami University, and later President of the United States, was only one of a long series of events, which knit the destinies of the two schools.   This common destiny was sealed for all time last spring, when Oxford College for Women was merged with Miami and the Board of trustees of the latter received from the D.A.R. the Caroline Scott Harrison Memorial

Miami University, second institution of high learning west of the Alleghenies, and Oxford College for Women, the first of its kind in the Middle West, has a common history.   Between 1828 and 1845, Dr. John Witherspoon Scott was professor of Chemistry at Miami.   He left there to take a similar position at Farmer’s College in Cincinnati, returning to Oxford in 1849 as president of the re-organized “Female Institute,” later known as Oxford College for Women.

While teaching at Farmer’s College he had taken a great interest in a short, plump, and very serious freshman, by name Benjamin Harrison.  Young Harrison was often invited to Dr. Scott’s home and between him and the daughter, Miss Caroline; a friendship grew, so strong that when the Scotts removed to Oxford, Harrison transferred to Miami University as to be near the charming Caroline.

Both graduated in the same year, 1852, and in the autumn of the next year were married in the Scott mansion, still preserved in Oxford.   Caroline Scott Harrison was the first President-General of the Daughters of the American Revolution and held that position at the time of her death in the White House in 1892.

The Oxford Chapter of the D.A.R., about ten years ago, conceived the idea of perpetuating the memory of Oxford College’s most distinguished alumna and proposed a memorial in the form of a dormitory for the College.   The idea was enthusiastically received and under the leadership of the Ohio chapters a nation-wide campaign for funds was instituted.   Tentative plans for the dormitory were drawn up and actual construction awaited only the collection of the memorial pledges and final action on the plans.

The original plan, however, was not destined to be carried out.   Before definite steps had been taken or the exact form of the memorial determined, it was seen that financial difficulties were accumulating for the College.  Competition with heavily endowed institutions and rising scholastic requirements had cut down attendance at the school, so that the Board of Trustees in the spring of 1928 decided to close its doors until the finance could be investigated.

Negotiations for an affiliation or merger with Western College for Women, at Oxford, were opened but those came to nothing.   Miami stepped into the breach and offered such a fair and workable proposition that the Oxford Board accepted its conditions and turned over the property to the University in December of 1928.   One of the most important clauses in the merger is that the name of Oxford College for Women shall be perpetuated with the building and that the alumnae body shall be incorporated with that of Miami as of an affiliated institution.

The alumni of both schools were enthusiastic over the merger.  Members of the Miami faculty had taught part time at Oxford practically since the school was founded in 1830 and we have seen that Oxford’s greatest president taught at Miami for seventeen years.   Perhaps more important is that Oxford College was the social center for Miami men for almost three-quarters of a century, for Miami was not co-educational until the late nineties.   We have seen, too, how Miami’s greatest alumnus and Oxford’s greatest alumna were man and wife, and coming down to the present, we find that the wife of Dr. A.H. Upham, present president of Miami, is an Oxford College graduate.

When the two institutions were merged, the Memorial plans were no longer practical.   Various ideas were considered, among them that of turning over the fund, of about $75000, to the memorial to Mrs. Harrison in Constitution Hall.   At this time, someone proposed the plan of incorporating the Memorial in the old Oxford College building itself, which the University was about to reconstruct and modernize.   After correspondence and interviews with Mrs. Backus of Columbus, State Regent, the proposal was presented through Mrs. Alfred J. Brosseau, President General, to the National Board of Management, which in turn presented it to the national body in its annual meeting in Washington.   It was unanimously agreed to accept this proposal and early in January a check for $65,000 was forwarded to Miami University.

Miami will spend approximately $125,000 on remodeling and furnishing the building.  Fireproof stairways, plumbing, wiring, and heating and the construction of faculty suites and the remodeling of the library into a living room will account for approximately $100,000, the remainder going to furnishings for student rooms, the dining room, and the kitchens.

The entire building will be remodeled.   A tower and a structure, which extends beyond the third story in the rear, will be removed and the whole made to conform to the Colonial style of architecture.  An entrance porch with four columns, two and a half stories high, will be erected at the main entrance and the conventional cornice carried around the building.

The feature of the memorial construction will be the two-story addition, which will include a dining room, 38 x 64, on the first floor and a social lounge on the second of the same size.   The latter will be beautifully appointed and decorated, with French windows on all four sides; a high arched ceiling, and mural decorations.   It will be used for a woman’s social center and for meetings of the D.A.R. and kindred societies.

A guest suite is included in the memorial with provisions for the reconstruction of the chapel and the library, which will be used as a living room.   The present living room will be retained with the original furnishings.   Furnishings for the lounge, originally in the D.A.R. Hostess House at Camp Sherman, have recently been sent from Cleveland and will be placed there when the building is completed.

Various Ohio chapters and individuals of the D.A.R. have indicated their intentions of furnishing the suites and supplementing the furnishings already provided for the lounge.  These are as follows: A room in memory of Mary Rankin Goulder, a past regent of Western Reserve Chapter, D.A.R.   Mr. Goulder gave $500 at the solicitation of the State Chairman, Mrs. E.L. Harris.   A room in honor of Louisa Johnson Smith (Mrs. Charles H.), now 81 years of age.   Mrs. Smith has held many offices in Western Reserve Chapter since it was organized in December 1891.   She gave the chapter its first United States flag at an early date and has kept the chapter supplied with flags and chapter banners.  She is often affectionately called, “the Little Mother of the Flags” by Chapter members.  A gift of $500 for this honor room came to Mrs. Harris from the three daughters of Mrs. Smith, Mrs. Frank E. Taplin, Mrs. Clarence E. Dodd, and Mrs. Mildred Coulton.

From the Junior Wheel and Distaff League of the Western Reserve Chapter, came a gift of $100 for a special piece of furniture in honor of Mrs. Edward L. Harris: a room in memory of Mary Bowdle Brant, wife of the late Dr. Austin C. Brant of Canton.   Mrs. Brant was a past Regent of Canton Chapter, past State Regent, Honorary State Regent, and the first National Chairman of the Caroline Scott Harrison Memorial.   A fund of $1,000, contributed by chapters and individuals, is now in hand for this room.   Mrs. J.R. McKee, daughter of Mrs. Harrison, contributed generously to this fund.

Two members of Cincinnati Chapter, Mrs. John J. Lippelman and Mrs. Nelson Cramer, will give a Rookwood drinking fountain in honor their mother, Mrs. Mary Peck, an early graduate of Oxford College for Women.

Conforming to a condition of the Memorial gift, the building will bear a table inscribed, “Oxford College for Women, Caroline Scott Harrison Memorial of the Daughters of the American Revolution.”

There will be accommodations for 144 girls, with four faculty suites and a suite for the Assistant Dean of Women.

Construction on the building has already begun under the supervision of Robert S. Harsh, architect, who also remodeled Fisher Hall for Men at Miami, a former home of Oxford college for Women.  The work will be finished in time for the opening of the school next autumn.

The D.A.R. will benefit directly and will be given an opportunity of inspecting and dedicating the new Memorial when the Ohio Chapters meet there is 1930.